India, a land of billion plus, has an obsession with cricket; not the grasshopper you know that produces a rhythmic chirping sound. This cricket is a game played between two teams with balls and bats. Although hardly a dozen countries in the world play cricket, Indians pride in being one of the best in the world and almost every Indian is glued to his television when India plays an international game.
Radhanath Swami is well aware of this distraction for sincere spiritual seekers in India. Once we arranged his talk on ‘Cricket’ during the peak world cup season. The topic promised to attract thousands of youth to our centre in downtown Mumbai. As the day approached, our community was abuzz with excitement. All wondered what Radhanath Swami would speak on this subject, for cricket awoke intense passion amongst the youth.
In the afternoon, a few hours before the event, Radhanath Swami called me to his room and asked about the game. He didn’t know any details about the sport, except that Indians go bonkers when matches are played. He keenly inquired about the intricacies of the sport and desired to know what aspect of this game would be a relevant theme to discuss in the evening. I spoke on how many top cricketers had been exposed in match fixing scandals and bribe taking. This had bought lot of disrepute to the game. I expressed that he should speak on the theme of ‘greed’ and ‘character’. He liked the idea and promised to address this issue.
An hour before the event, I couldn’t contain my excitement; I too had an obsession for this game before I took up to spiritual life seriously. Many cricket scandals and the dark side of its players was well known to me. I rushed to Radhanath Swami’s room and told him that I would like to share some very serious stories that would help him address the issue better during his talk. Immediately he showed interest and took out his notebook and pen. He then asked me to narrate the stories. I began the tale of famous players who fell to greed, and I was enjoying speaking these stories. However I observed that as I was enthusiastically narrating, Radhanath Swami was intensely gazing at me. At one point I became nervous, wondering why he is concentrating so much on each word that I was speaking. Nevertheless I rambled on for a long time.
After finishing, I honestly said, “If you speak these stories, the audience would be shaken to the core.” He paused, reflected deeply, and soberly replied, “To be very honest, I am not sure if I will speak these incidents. I would want to focus on the spiritual theme of character and need to overcome greed.” Then he continued, “But I am not going to forget these stories. These are very instructive to me personally. I shall take note of them for my personal life. We have to learn lessons from these mistakes and be humble while serving others” Then he thanked me, “You have done me a great favour by instructing me on the dangers of greed. I pray we are protected from this deadly vice.”
I left the room in a daze; I was earlier hoping the talk would shake the audience, but here I was shaken to the core. Most of us in the ashram had been excited about the event, but Radhanath Swami was taking this as yet another opportunity for reflection. He sees every event in life as a learning lesson. I too learnt a valuable lesson that evening; as teachers of spiritual science, we should be more eager to internalize and imbibe lessons in our own lives before being enthusiastic to share with others. ‘Physician heal thyself’, and a teacher teach thyself. Thank you Radhanath Swami, for showing us by your personal example that practice is better than precept.